Supreme Court declines to fast-track Trump immunity case

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Donald Trump’s lawyers argued the effort to expedite his trial was politically motivated.
By Madeline Halpert and Anthony Zurcher
BBC News

The US Supreme Court has declined, for now, to decide whether former president Donald Trump has immunity from prosecution for allegedly trying to overturn the 2020 election.

Mr Trump’s efforts to delay his trial appears successful, as the case must now work through the appeals process.

Special counsel Jack Smith had asked the court to take up the case in an expedited manner.

Mr Trump was indicted on election subversion charges earlier this year.

The court did not explain its decision, instead issuing an unsigned order saying that Mr Smith’s petition “is denied”.

The ruling is a setback for Mr Smith, who had asked the Supreme Court to intervene early for fear that the appeals process could delay the start of Mr Trump’s trial, which was scheduled to begin on 4 March in Washington, DC.

His office declined to comment on the ruling.

Mr Smith is investigating Mr Trump’s alleged attempts to overturn the election leading up to the 6 January Capitol riot.

District Judge Tanya Chutkan has paused the case while Mr Trump appeals. The former president is claiming he is immune from prosecution because he was acting in his official capacity as president before and during the riots.

In court filings, Mr Smith argued the Supreme Court should consider the case because it presented “a fundamental question at the heart of our democracy: whether a former president is absolutely immune” from being prosecuted for federal crimes allegedly committed while in the White House.

“The United States recognizes that this is an extraordinary request,” he added. “This is an extraordinary case.”

Mr Trump’s lawyers had argued the request to expedite the trial was politically motivated, claiming in court filings that it was part of an effort to “ensure that President Trump — the leading Republican candidate for President, and the greatest electoral threat to President Biden — will face a months-long criminal trial at the height of his presidential campaign”.

The ruling means the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit will have to hear the case before it can be appealed to the Supreme Court. It is expected that the US’s highest court will eventually have to issue a ruling.

The appeals process may delay the start date of the trial, however, which prosecutors had hoped to hold before the election.

Arguments are set to be heard in the case in DC Circuit Court on 9 January.

Judge Chutkan had already rejected Mr Trump’s immunity claims, writing in a previous ruling that the former president’s “four-year service as Commander in Chief did not bestow on him the divine right of kings to evade the criminal accountability that governs his fellow citizens”.

Mr Trump appealed that decision to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

The former New York real estate mogul currently faces dozens of criminal charges across four cases, including two related to his alleged election subversion efforts.

Mr Smith has also brought charges against the former president in Florida for his handling of classified documents.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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